Press Releases

    DSG/SM/151
    4 March 2002

    "WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT ALL POLITICS -- IN OUR ERA --
    IS GLOBAL", DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS
    IN ADDRESS TO DICKINSON COLLEGE

    In Struggle against Terrorism, There Is No
    Alternative to International Cooperation, She States

    NEW YORK, 1 March (UN Headquarters) – Following is the text of an address on 28 February by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania:

    I would like to thank you for inviting me to be with you here today, and for honouring me in such a gracious way. I am particularly pleased to be recognized by this distinguished and venerable institution, which I understand was actually the first college chartered in the United States. To receive the Benjamin Rush Award for Humanistic Values in Corporate and Government Life is certainly a great honour, but also a responsibility. A responsibility to keep alive the strong values that put the well-being of all people at the centre of one’s actions, both locally and globally.

    In reading up on Benjamin Rush before coming here, I learned that this signatory to the Declaration of Independence was a "man before his time". He was someone who believed in challenging the status quo, striving not only for freedom for all but also to make things better for those who are weaker, promoting the rights of women as well as providing health care to the poor. How striking that these values are just as relevant today and, put in a global context, will also bolster some of the things I would like to talk to you about this evening.

    It is hard to believe that less than 6 months have elapsed since the Twin Towers were struck. This shocking event has had such a profound impact that the hopeful years that followed the end of the cold war now seem distant history. The world has woken up to the reality of terrorism. It is a complex, multidimensional reality which requires action on many fronts and must be tackled with patience and determination. Ultimate success -- the total eradication of terrorism -- may well depend on our collective capacity to build a real global community, a global community that can ensure safety and dignity for all peoples. This is what I want to talk to you about tonight.

    The first course of action is obviously to prevent the recurrence of terrorist attacks, to dismantle the terrorist networks and destroy their support systems. This is an immense task which cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of all countries. Not even the most powerful country in the world can be sure of its own safety without it. Such cooperation includes the sharing of information among law-enforcement agencies, as well as the willingness to arrest and prosecute suspected terrorists. It also includes harmonized action on money laundering, common standards in airport security, adequate controls over the export of weapons and sensitive technologies.

    The Security Council recognized this necessity early on when it passed, on 28 September, a far-reaching resolution which imposes sweeping obligations on all Member States of the United Nations to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, including by outlawing the financing of terrorist organizations and cooperating in criminal investigations.

    These obligations are a heavy burden for poorer countries whose limited resources are already insufficient to meet the basic needs of their populations. Help in the form of money and expertise must be extended by the more prosperous countries. I am glad to report that various agencies of the United Nations system, from the International Civil Aviation Organization in the field of civil aviation to the Drug and Crime programme, are providing support to developing countries so that they can play their role in the fight against terrorism.

    In this struggle, there is simply no alternative to international cooperation. Terrorism will be defeated if the international community summons the will to unite in a broad coalition, or it will not be defeated at all. The global reaction to the attacks of 11 September should give us courage and hope that we can succeed in this fight. The sight of people, in every part of the world and from every religion, gathering to mourn -- and to express solidarity with the people of the United States -- proved more eloquently than any words that terrorism is not an issue that divides humanity, but one that unites it. The legitimacy that the United Nations confers can ensure that the greatest number of States are able and willing to take the necessary and difficult steps -- diplomatic, legal and political -- that are needed to defeat terrorism.

    We are all concerned, directly and personally, by many aspects of this combat. The necessity to tighten security has imposed new constraints on our lives. Societies with long traditions of respect for civil liberties and human rights face unexpected dilemmas: how much control is acceptable in free societies? At what price security?

    I am strongly convinced that societies can and must adjust to the new reality without sacrificing the values which are the very source of their strength and vitality. The passionate debates taking place over the difficult choices that have to be made are both useful and necessary. I have no doubt that open, tolerant, democratic societies will find the right balance between the need to offer better protection to their members and the necessary respect for civil liberties and human rights.

    Our obligations do not stop at our borders however. If nothing else, the events of September 11 were a powerful reminder of how closely connected we are to our fellow human beings around the planet. The wave of human solidarity which the terrorist attacks generated must extend beyond terrorism.

    It would be an insult to the poor of this world to suggest that poverty generates terrorism. Poor people usually want only one thing: to be able to live decently and in peace. And the terrorists have no right to invoke the poor as a justification for their action.

    But there is no doubt in my mind that if we reject what the terrorists stand for -- violence, intolerance, fanaticism -- if we want to protect the values that we hold dear -- freedom, tolerance, justice, equality -- then we must do better, much better, to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

    It is frankly scandalous that in the midst of unprecedented prosperity, we have witnessed an unprecedented drop in foreign aid. As a percentage of gross national product, official development assistance is now at its lowest level ever. Barriers and subsidies continue to impede trade in sectors of greatest interest to developing countries, particularly in agriculture. Debt burdens, although reduced in recent years, remain very high in too many developing countries. And arresting the AIDS pandemic will require significant and sustained new resources for many years to come.

    In making that point, I am not trying to push the United Nations favourite issues on the back of the terrorism agenda. I am simply suggesting that we will have a better chance of winning the battle over terrorism if people around the world, especially young people, feel they can hope for a future that is better than that of their parents. This will not happen unless those who have more reach out to those who have less.

    Certain situations require an exceptional, comprehensive and sustained engagement of the international community. Some countries emerging from conflicts have almost ceased to function as States. They have little or no capacity to ensure law and order, to provide health and education services to their people and to support normal economic activity. The United Nations has been asked many times in the last decade to lead the international efforts to help such countries rebuild their institutions and establish a sustainable peace. We have learned valuable lessons in Sierra Leone, in East Timor, in Kosovo, lessons that we are now applying in Afghanistan.

    First, peace-building is a very complex process, combining many different tasks, success or failure in each of which has an inescapable impact on the others.

    And secondly, it is a long and delicate process, in which there are no quick fixes. Whoever embarks on it must be prepared for the long haul.

    As an example of the first point, take the training and monitoring of local police forces. This work is of little value without an honest and effective judiciary, a decent prison system, and some institutions that promote human rights.

    After all, what is the good of building an efficient police force, if when you arrest criminals you have no jail to put them in, or only one that is run in a way offensive to human decency?

    Come to that, what is the good of arresting criminals at all, if they cannot be tried within a reasonable time, by a tribunal that conforms to minimum international standards, or if you lack the resources to collect evidence sufficient to secure a conviction?

    To take another example, what use are elections, even with the most immaculate voting procedures, if candidates are not free to campaign, or the media to cover them; if the losers are not ready to accept the result; or if the winners treat their victory as a licence to ignore everyone else's views?

    We cannot bring peace to a country through elections unless we also help it to build democratic institutions, and allow its people at least a glimpse of a solution to their social problems.

    Or again, what good does it do to rebuild houses for refugees, if we are unable to persuade them that their safety will be guaranteed when they return?

    And what good is it persuading them to return, if there is no prospect of economic development to employ their talents and feed their families?

    By the same token, what good does it do to disarm and demobilize armed factions, if the young men and boys who come out of them find no decent schools or civilian jobs to go into?

    All these tasks are interconnected, and the people engaged in them need to work closely together. We cannot expect lasting success in any of them unless we pursue all at once, as part of a single, coherent strategy. If the resources are lacking for any one of them, all the others may turn out to have been pursued in vain.

    What I have just described may sound like a tall order for the international community -- and indeed it is a tall order. But I believe it is a necessary order if we intend to create truly lasting conditions of peace and development. In many of the instances I have described, the countries are too impoverished, too polarized and too burdened by the legacies of conflict to do it on their own. Left alone in their poverty, some countries are all too likely to collapse, or relapse, into conflict and anarchy, a menace to their neighbours and potentially -- as the events of 11 September so brutally reminded us -- a threat to global security.

    Today -- more than ever -- we know that helping them achieve genuine peace and development is as much in our interest as it is in theirs. Eleven September showed in ways more terrible than any of us could have imagined that our lives can be affected by events taking place halfway around the world. Insularity is less and less of an option. This interdependence -- of people and products, information and ideas -- means that more and more of the challenges we face can no longer be addressed at the national level alone. More and more, the forces of modern life escape the control of national governments.

    We need to manage common affairs in common -- we need to arrive at common principles with which to address challenges that all peoples have in common. In a world without walls, we can no longer think and act as if only the local matters, as if we only owe solidarity and allegiance to those within our own city or State.

    Such a world demands that we tear down the walls in our own minds as well -- those separating us from them, rich from poor, white from black -- so that we are able to recognize the untold ways in which we all can benefit from cooperation and solidarity across lines of nationality, race or economic development. Whether we are talking about terrorism, crime, health or the environment, interdependence has ceased to be an abstract concept, and has become reality in our own lives. From the drugs trade to rising sea levels to the spread of AIDS, the fate of people in the North is increasingly intertwined with that of the South.

    This poses a real challenge not only to political leaders, but all of us as citizens and, in particular, you in the younger generation. We need to rethink what belonging means and what community means in order to be able to embrace the fate of distant peoples and share our wealth and privilege with them as well. This may sound idealistic, but it is really a basic matter of realism. You all know the saying that "All politics is local". We need to turn this idea upside-down, and recognize that all politics -- in our era -- is global.

    I do not imagine for a moment this will be easy. We all feel a deeply rooted sense of loyalty to those closest to us -- families, friends, fellow citizens of city and country. To say that we -- and here I think in particular of those of us privileged to live in the developed world -- should include citizens of poor and distant countries in our circle of concern -- to suggest that we have an obligation to help them achieve their rights and opportunities -- is to ask a lot. But I believe the era we live in leaves us with little choice. Either we help the poor and developing countries today, out of a sense of moral obligation and enlightened self-interest, or we will find ourselves compelled to do so tomorrow, when their problems become our problems, in a world without walls. That, too, is a lesson of 11 September.

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